You know that feeling when you get a new toy and you decide you should play it 48 minutes a night and expect it to carry you to the playoffs, and then that toy breaks, but the moment it’s fixed you keep playing with it like nothing’s happened?
You probably don’t know, but Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau sure does.
After trading Lauri Markannen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton, the latter of whom has only played four NBA minutes, Thibodeau might be having some buyer’s remorse.
Butler, after a meeting with the Minnesota front office, has requested a trade to one of three teams: the LA Clippers, the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Knicks. To make the deal even sweeter for these three teams, Butler’s made it clear that he’s willing to sign a max extension to play for any of those squads.
So, before we go further, let’s break down what we know so far, starting with the obvious: Jimmy Butler is obviously not a fan of the twin cities.
After rumors of a shaky Minnesota locker room, reports came out that Butler was feuding with the Wolves’ young players — namely Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
But even with all the drama, the Wolves still squeaked out a playoff spot last season, falling 4-1 to the Houston Rockets in the first round.
While a first round exit isn’t optimal, Butler led the Wolves to their first playoff appearance in 13 years. Maintaining the growth of Minnesota’s young core, the Wolves had an outside shot to make even more noise this coming season.
Butler’s trade request halts that, but honestly, who can blame him. He didn’t like his teammates, his coach was riding his team to the ground, and the front office decided that the 2011 Chicago Bulls were the best team to build around him.
So, let’s look to the future and see who has the best shot of landing the talented wing.
The Nets finally own all of their first round picks for the foreseeable future. For a franchise that’s been in draft hell the past three years, Brooklyn might be a lot more conservative this go around when trading for a star.
In addition to their picks, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen stand out as the Nets’ top assets.
Russell is undoubtedly the most intriguing name, but on a Minnesota team ranked in the bottom half for NBA defense, a slow combo guard may not be the best fit.
LeVert is interesting, and so is Allen. The former is a solid NBA player who has a lot of room to grow going into his third year. The four-year Michigan man has solid defensive instincts and a great handle. At 24 years old, he is on the older side, but Butler didn’t make his leap until his age 25 season.
That being said, Butler was more of an exception than the rule, and LeVert alone is not going to be enough to trade for the Minnesota star.
Allen on the other hand is a raw 20-year old center with a wild 7’6” wingspan. The former Texas star is capable of anchoring a top-10 NBA defense one day, posting 2.1 blocks after the All-Star break. But Allen also plays the same position as the Wolves’ best player, Towns, and a backup center is nowhere near the best that Minnesota can exchange for Butler.
The Nets could surprise us, pairing one of the aforementioned players with another young veteran like Spencer Dinwiddie or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but I’d put my money against it.
At least initially, the Clippers stand out as one of the most likely trade destinations for Butler.
Jerry West, since joining the Clippers, has disbanded Lob City, while acquiring a large store of young players and quality vets. To make things even better, West has cleared out two max slots for the 2019 offseason, opening up the opportunity for a second star to potentially join Butler next year.
With guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson as the Clippers’ latest lottery picks, both players should be attractive assets for Minnesota. Add in Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari as high scoring forwards and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, and the Clippers have a trove of assets for the Wolves to consider.
A trade with one or more of these young players, plus a defensive minded vet like Avery Bradley or Patrick Beverley, could be enough to convince Minnesota.
New York Knicks
Why do I feel like the Knicks are going to sell the farm (again) for a disgruntled star?
The Knicks have a bright future ahead of them with young players like Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox leading the charge. Enes Kanter is another valuable piece, but his aversion to defense and position at the five both stand as roadblocks to a potential trade.
New York wants to be back in the spotlight, and reports say that the Knicks have a laser pointed on Kyrie Irving for the 2019 offseason. What’s a better sell for Irving than a superstar teammate to play with, especially a low maintenance one like Butler, who won’t steal any of his spotlight?
Creating a trade package around Knox and/or Ntilikina, a first round pick and Joakim Noah (whom only Tom Thibodeau would consider an asset) might just be enough to land Butler. And if they do, hopefully New York won’t sell their future in the process.